cover image Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology

Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology

Henry William Chesbrough. Harvard Business School Press, $40 (227pp) ISBN 978-1-57851-837-1

The great corporate research departments at companies like Bell Labs, IBM and Xerox were once the motor of American industry. But that may be changing, according to this probing academic study of corporate technological innovation. Chesbrough, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School, argues that the old""closed innovation"" model--vertically integrated research-and-development departments that develop technology in-house for the sole use of their corporate parent--is becoming obsolete in an age of mobile scientific workers, ubiquitous high-tech startups and a growing extra-corporate research establishment at university labs. Modern technology powerhouses like Cisco and Microsoft do little of their own basic research, he reports; instead they have dropped the""do-it-all-yourself"" approach and pioneered a new model of""open innovation,"" in which companies import ideas from without and let their own innovations enter the wider marketplace. Drawing on case studies of companies like Lucent and Intel, Chesbrough suggests that companies make themselves more permeable to the flow of knowledge through such strategies as hiring professors and grad students as summer consultants, sponsoring university research, investing in and partnering with high-tech startups and venture capitalists, and disseminating their own innovations through spin-off companies or even by publishing it in the public domain. Chesbrough's sophisticated but highly readable discussion of these complex issues will give managers much food for thought.